the inside-out return is another popular shot to play against the serve that is hit down the middle from both the deuce and advantage courts. this shot is hit away from the returner’s body (i.e., from ‘in’ to ‘out’) and applies equally to right- and left-handers playing both forehands and backhands. The forehand inside-out return is a well-established shot. The backhand inside-out return has evolved more recently because the speed of the first serve now prevents many players from running around their backhand side to hit the forehand return. As a result, players have been forced to hit backhands across the court instead, developing the backhand inside-out return into a recognised weapon.
The inside-out return can be used most effectively against the server who struggles to move quickly enough to the wide ball from the finishing position of her serve, or who lacks reach (for example, a player who
uses two hands on both sides). It can also be used in combination with the sneak approach because sometimes the inside-out return can force the server into a defensive position (because ofthe angle ofthe return) immediately. This allows the returnerto capitalise by finishing the point with a volley orshort groundstroke if the server has been put under enough pressure.
This return carries a high margin of error because the ball is hit across the court (into the longest part ofthe court) into a large target area. It also allows the returnerto send the ball back in the same direction of the serve. This is an important point because trying to change the direction of a ball travelling up to 192 km/h (120 mph) can be difficult! As with the middle return, if the inside-out return is caught late, then the player still has a good chance of playing an effective shot into court. Figure 2.2 shows the target area forthe inside-out return played from the deuce court. In this figure, a right-handed returner has hit her inside-out backhand return across the court against a first serve hit down the middle from the deuce court. Note how
the inside-out return is also an important shot to develop for the returning team in doubles because it steers the ball away from the server’s partner at the net. A key factor in breaking serve in doubles is to make the server play as many second shots as possible from a first serve situation. the inside-out return helps the returning team do this. this shot can be used to great effect against the serve and volleyer because a well-timed return hit short and wide of the incoming server will force her to hit a low volley from a wide position. this will give the returner’s partner a chance to intercept with a winning volley of her own.
a serving team may counteract the threat of a strong inside- out return by using an Australian formation. the server’s partner will stand at the net on the same side of the court as the server—directly in the line of the inside-out return. In this case,
the returner may choose to use the inside-in return or the inside- out lob instead. The returning team should be careful, however, when using this return against a serving team using the I formation. this is because the server’s partner often moves across the court from her middle position at the net—directly into the path of the inside-out return! (For more information about the Australian and I formations, please see chapter 1.)